In recent conversations, acquaintances who have some interest in history and/or a relative who fought in the war have asked this question. On the surface, it was asked innocently enough. They had no idea what they could expect to see on the battlefield. So here’s a list of some of the easily-visible sites in the Meuse-Argonne:
- Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, Romagne-sous-Montfaucon
- Montfaucon American Monument
- Destroyed Village of Montfaucon
- Vauquois Hill and Destroyed Village of Vauquois
- Lost Batallion Site, near Binarville
- Sgt. York Sites, near Chatel Chéhéry
- General Pershing’s HQ, Souilly
- Jean-Paul DeVries’ Museum Romagne ’14 – ’18, Romagne
- The Morolager (Restored German Camp), near Binarville
- The Imposing State of Pennslyvania Memorial, Varennes
Yet on another level, the question left the Webmaster feeling uneasy: Feeling uneasy because, in today’s internet world, it reduces the battlefield to a bucket-list of a few easy-to-visit sites that can be quickly checked off and then set aside. But this misses the point: The Meuse-Argonne battle was much more–it represented a major battle in the Great War; with high stakes for both sides. On the American side, it represented the zenith of her involvement in the war. On the German side, it represented a last ditch effort to try to stop the Allied advance. For both sides, the human cost was high; both for those that died and for those that survived. Therefore, any visit to this battlefield should be an attempt to comprehend what happened there so many years ago.
There are many ways to do gain a deeper understanding: The first and easiest is to read one or more of the books listed in this website’s bibliographies. American Armies and Battlefields in Europe provides a concise summary; and it has a two-day tour that is just as drivable today as it was in 1938. Combining that with a read of Ed Lengel’s To Conquer Hell or Laurence Stallings’ The Doughboys brings a human side to the story and leads to a deeper understanding of the intensity of the battle.
The second way is to take a deeper dive into pre-trip research. This is almost essential for visitors who want to trace an ancestor’s actions. It involves finding and reading unit histories, family letters, etc. And it involves combining that knowledge with driving maps (1:250,000) and with hiking maps (1:20,000) so that one can retrace the steps of a family member, the action of a particular battle, etc. The information in this website is designed with this in mind.
A third way, somewhat related to the second, is gaining knowledge from experts and / or hiring guides who know the battlefield.
Whatever combination of these strategies a reader uses, he or she will come away from the trip with a much deeper understanding of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive and its impact on the lives of the soldiers who experienced it.
P.S. Readers might also be interested in this website’s feature article: “Planning the Best Battlefield Pilgrimage Ever… (Hopefully.)”